SA needs show with a different tune
A YOUNG, single mother walks on the stage. She looks desperate. Her face betrays her troubles.
She seems to be carrying a huge burden on her shoulders. She knows she is not only facing the three judges in front of her, but the bigger audience watching from within and beyond the borders of South Africa.
More importantly, she is also facing herself as she seeks to validate her self-worth.
The judges give her a look as if they feel pity for her. She mumbles a few lines of a badly self-composed song. Her voice is cracking with desperation. It is almost extinct.
It must have been consumed by whatever is eating her from within. It is almost as if she is burning with deep-seated anguish.
The judges are probably realising that they are correct to pity her. It's a pity she has to go through this to support her child.
Although she likes music, she is doing this primarily for her child. After a few minutes of an unimpressive showing, one of the judges gives her a brutally frank verdict: she can't cut it.
Clearly out of sympathy and not for talent spotting, another judge gives her the green light. "I think you must go to Sun City," she says.
The last judge to give a verdict concurs, albeit unconvincingly even to himself.
She is lucky to have solicited some sympathy from the judges because of the personal circumstances she could barely hide.
A great number of the desperates have provided the audience with the kind of comedy that would put Chris Rock and Trevor Noah to shame. And in many episodes, the judges have had a really good laugh. And it's easy to laugh. It is, after all, a show about music - and fun.
However a number of young people seem to believe that once discovered as a singing sensation you become a star. And with that comes easy money and fame.
There is nothing wrong if people have something to offer. The trouble is that, if truth be told, a number of young people who flock to the show do so because they are looking for what they imagine is an easy way to fame and money.
In the face of this jobless "blood bath", to borrow a phrase from Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zweli-nzima Vavi, young people are vulnerable even to self-inflicted ridicule.
They are desperately searching for something that will add substantive meaning to their lives. No doubt music is not just a cultural activity, it also has economic value.
But music is not the bedrock of any economy. No country has ever survived purely on music. In fact, music and musicians do well in successful economies.
On the back of a relatively powerful economy, American music has been plagiarised all over the world. It is so powerful that the genres that contain vulgar lyrics find no resistance even among nuns - at least privately, I presume.
At the height of the economic boom, the beat of South African music could be heard much louder in Harare, Lilongwe and other parts of the African continent.
So there is something wrong if the youth are going to be so desperate to make a living that they would forget what economists call the real economy, which is about producing goods and services without which life becomes impossible.
Now this brings me to the disastrous figures released recently by the Manufacturing Circle, a business lobby group that represents South African manufacturers - the backbone of the economy.
In its bulletin, the group says a sizeable proportion of the workforce (43%) is employed by businesses that have fewer workers.
The small business sector, the report says, is the most important originator of jobs in the country. But there are two worrying trends.
Firstly, the number of small businesses in South Africa has stagnated over the past decade.
Over the past five years, the total number of business closures was 440000. "Given that the typical small business employs 12 people, a revival of this sector could potentially create 5.3million jobs," the report says.
Secondly, the number of people trying to start businesses has fallen to an all-time low. In 2001, about 250000 people were involved in starting their own businesses.
By 2011, only 58000 people were trying to do so, a decline of 76%. "Applying the average ratio of 12 workers per small business, the reduction in entrepreneurial activity over the last five years has reduced the economy's job creation potential by around 2.3million."
Having analysed these figures, I am convinced we need to start entrepreneurship idols where the young and jobless mother could compete by submitting a business proposal.
Those who show potential could be trained and given seed capital to start businesses.
That's where the future lies.